Inbound or outbound? Which tactic will land your dream clients

Which should agency new business plans focus on?

Firstly, let's clear up these terms.

What is inbound marketing?

SEO, online content, social media, PR and events are all channels to share your agency expertise, tone of voice and specialism, and position your agency as best placed to help an organisation solve its burning issues.

These are all effective means to promote your agency to a wider audience, with the goal being that a) your prospective clients will see your regular content, and b) when they have a live need, will reach out to you.

In its most hardcore form, you ensure your content answers the questions that decision makers will turn to Google for answers to. In an ideal world, your answer will appear at the top of Google, and you are thereby positioned as an authority and literally, the answer to their current challenge.

In theory, of course, this means that the leads that come to you via your inbound marketing are live leads, who are already largely sold on your agency, having consumed one or more of your marketing pieces over months or years.

A quick scan of LinkedIn however shows a key problem – oversaturation.

Every agency out there is writing and producing their own versions of answers to a problem. Unless you’re spending a lot of time and money promoting your content, it likely won’t get seen by the people you really want to see it, and who you wrote it for.

So what to do now? This is where outbound marketing comes in.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing takes on many forms, but from a B2B perspective is often described as cold outreach (encompassing cold calls and cold emails).

A quick search of outbound vs inbound marketing will tell you that outbound marketing is pushy, interruptive, and not targeted. That’s all true, when it’s not done effectively.

As someone in the business of outbound marketing, but not from a traditional sales background, I can tell you hand on heart that I had those same perceptions coming into the job.

But when done well, outbound marketing is really just introducing yourself to a prospective client. It’s showing interest in the person or organisation, getting to know them better, and highlighting what they have to gain from including you in their network of contacts. It’s letting them know that you’d like to fix a problem they have.

"Too often, inbound leads don't fit within an agency's criteria"

Where inbound lets you down

So think back to when you put out that stellar bit of content, showcased some gorgeous new work, or interviewed someone interesting on a webinar. Two weeks later and the email inbox is still empty and the phone isn’t ringing.

The problem is, that while new business professionals or agency directors might visit LinkedIn daily, the same can’t always be said for senior marketing people. Unless you’re making direct contact with people on LinkedIn, you might just be raising your profile with peers, rather than with your dream clients.

If you want to know if Sainsbury’s, Aviva, or Nike have any new projects on the horizon, the quickest and most certain way to find out (and make your case to be included in a pitch) is by reaching out directly.

Where outbound is most effective

Outbound marketing is particularly effective when your target market is just a few hundred prospective customers, which is the case for most agencies.

Rather than putting marketing out and hoping that one of just a select few hundred people sees it, you’re identifying up front who your ideal future customers are and taking your message directly to them. It’s therefore more efficient!

Of course, there might not be a brief on the table. But a conversation is a great way to build a relationship and get some insights for a future conversation.

In conclusion

There’s no denying that thought leadership and PR are extremely valuable in positioning your agency as a leader in your space. And inbound new business is wonderful, because someone is already interested in you. But too often, inbound leads don’t fit within an agency’s criteria. The scope, size, sex appeal of the brand or brief just don’t quite hit the spot.

That’s when outbound marketing, and actively seeking out the opportunities you and your team want, should be part of your strategy. Your marketing content can be used within your network of contacts to further illustrate and cement the reasons they should keep you on their consideration list.

Together, these two become the yin and yang of a healthy new business pipeline.

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